Laying down for love

May 14, 2019

The room had pink carpet. Not just any kind of pink either, but in-your-face, highlighter, abrasive, pink carpet. Not that you really ever saw it – the room was filled with rubbermaid bins, mostly filled with fabric and stamps, stacked 3 or 4 high – but it had been my wife’s childhood bedroom for a time, and her father had made the egregious mistake of telling her that she could pick out WHICHEVER carpet she wanted. He was a man of his word, and I respect that about him. Eventually, my wife moved to a room down the hall, and the room became my mother-in-law’s “sewing room.” That term was used very loosely, as basically everything she did, and it was ALL crafty (other than the computer), was in that room. It was an homage to her mother before her (think an entire walk-in attic filled with fabric), and probably her mother before her. Every one of Em’s aunts has such a room in their house, no matter what kind or size – floor to ceiling fabric and crafty stuff. It’s a “legacy” passed down for generations for husbands galore to enjoy, and many others to reap the benefits of. My father-in-law definitely reaped those benefits, and let me remind you, the carpet was pink.

I remember vividly informing one of Emily’s aunts during our engagement, that there would be NO such room in our house, mainly because my wife didn’t really spend too much time sewing, enjoyed photography (which has much fewer “things” necessary), and I am not a huge fan of clutter. She laughed, but said she admired my intentions. They were after all, pure and noble. 

After we got married, and real life took over, I eventually encouraged my wife to quit her “real” job and become a wedding photographer. This meant that she would need an office in our home – and so without even thinking about it, I relinquished the bedroom across the hall from ours in our small starter home to her – and she filled in with a desk, come cameras, computers, and a couple bookshelves from Ikea. Nothing too fancy, and all well within the realm of responsible and realistic business needs. I was totally fine with it. 

Photography is a lovely career, but when you shoot weddings, you’re gone on weekends a lot, and as our family grew, so did her desire to be home on Saturdays to spend them with our kids. Interestingly enough, she had experienced some pretty amazing success selling cake toppers, made out of wood and riddled with glitter, on an Etsy site she started at some point. Never mind that my garage now resembled a woodworkers shop AND a playhouse for young fairies, she was making money, and lots of it, and so I had given in and ceded the back half of our garage to her for that – willingly as well. Combine her sales successes and her desire to be around more – and you get Oh Yay Studios – the name under which anything and everything Emily Steffen does creatively is started, shared, and sold on the interwebs. The budding business of the young entrepreneur that I love.

Earrings, towels, plant sticks, t-shirts, holiday knick-knacks – all this and more – sold by the amazing Emily Steffen. It’s all out of my house. You know the one. The one with the 3rd largest room in our entire house filled from top to bottom with fabric. And wood. And boxes. And a post office. And a wood cutting laser machine. And a computer nicer than the one that helped NASA launch people into space. And of course, a floor with painted stripes. Because her husband told her, it was her room, and she could do whatever she wanted in there… That house (and garage), belongs to me, the guy whose wife was never going to have a craft room in HIS house, you know, as a matter of principle. When I see Jill Wenzel (Em’s mom) in heaven, I am sure the laughter will be loud.

So you might be wondering – “why on earth is there a post on your blog about this? It’s a funny story and all, but I don’t understand the point?” Well here it comes. Somewhere along the line, I decided that if I was going to be true to my pastoral calling, I would need to follow Jesus’ intentions for my marriage as well. There’s this section of a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to a group of Christians in a city called Ephesus, it’s about marriage, and it’s slightly controversial in today’s culture. Here’s how it starts; 

Ephesians 5:22–24 (ESV)

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Please, if this has upset you, know that I am not, nor is Paul, promoting a misogynist culture of marriage. He, and I, are proponents of roles in marriage, as in EVERY relationship, and there are some translational issues as well. The word “submit” in our language and context means something much more negative than in Paul’s. We tend to think of it as allowing ourselves to be walked all over and ‘put under’ the control of someone else. That’s not what he’s saying. He is asking wives to show their husband’s respect, and to honor them as an image-bearer of God (as women are as well). PART of a wife’s role, is to help her husband feel confident in who God created Him to be, by respecting him (minus the somewhat obvious circumstances when He is undeserving). Lest you think Paul only challenges or cares about the role of women in a marriage, he continues;

Ephesians 5:25–33 (ESV)

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Wowza. That is a tall order if I have ever received one. Paul, and in turn God, commands husbands to be willing to lay down their lives for their wives, as Christ did for all of us. He says that the way that we demonstrate our love for them, is through selfless sacrifice, no matter the cost to ourselves. In this, we love them, ourselves, and more importantly, demonstrate the value and equality of women in our society, and to God. Whew, big time. 

Truth is, if I want to be the kind of husband that Paul describes and God designed, I’m going to need to be willing to lay down my feelings about a whole lot more than a room filled with crafting supplies. The statement that engaged Aaron made so many years ago, wasn’t necessarily wrong, although it was slightly naive, it just didn’t take into account what life would throw at us, and how in it and through it, I would be able to sacrificially and selflessly ‘lay down my life,’ my opinions, emotions, and desires – so that my wife could live in the gifts and grace that God has for her. If I want His best for her, it might mean that I get a little uncomfortable from time to time, or worse yet, I find glitter in places (my car, my shoes, my baseball bag, my lawnmower) it was never meant to inhabit. 

Throughout my 13 years of marriage, I have had many opportunities to lay down my ‘life’ for my wife. Sometimes I recognize them and do as I should, other times I fight for myself. And while no one’s perfect, looking back, I can say that I have experienced more pure joy and contentment in life, when I make the most of each and every opportunity to sacrifice for her. Her happiness is a reward unlike ANY other I have ever experienced. Just see her in her ‘room’ in the picture above, and you’ll understand why.

So I guess all this has been to encourage you, whether husband or wife, to be intentional about selfless sacrifice in your marriage. Choose one another. Place a priority on giving up, more than you’ve ever gotten. And every so often, take something that in the moment feels like it’s your life, and lay it down – even if it’s on fluorescent pink carpet.

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